I love the show Mad Men. Love the attention to period details. Love the acting. Love the characters. Love the fashions the women rocked.
I have no desire to live the show, though.
And yet, that's exactly what I fear a lot of men — especially a lot of white men and particularly most members of the Republican Party right now — are looking to achieve. A return to the "good old days." You know, when men were men, women were there for the taking, and minorities knew their place.
Obviously, since the idea of diversity initiatives took hold in the late '80s and early '90s, there has been pushback from certain segments of the population. For the most part, it was primarily solidly middle-class white men who felt they were being thrown under the bus to benefit people of color and women. When the economy was strong, no one paid much attention to these mutterings; instead, anyone who had the nerve to express such views was looked at askance with an evil eye.
When the economy started to nosedive, these views started to gain popularity. One need look no farther than the Tea Party, which grew in prominence after the election of President Barack Obama. Despite a few notables of color such as Lloyd Marcus, the Tea Party movement was predominantly white. And while many involved in the Tea Party said race was not a factor, much of their rhetoric made such a claim hard to believe.
Now, smack in the middle of the GOP nomination season, it's becoming clear that none of the candidates left standing have any clear-cut answers about how to steer our country's economic course, so they're focusing on other issues. Since the campaign has lost the candidate of color and the woman, we're left with men who see an America where, if they have their way, we will be going backward. Frankly, that is scary.
Obviously, it's too early to tell who the actual nominee will be since the GOP seems to change its mind as often as my 6-year-old in a toy store. But at the moment we have Rick "Rollback" Santorum gaining steam and giving the presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney a real run for his large piles of money. Santorum is a man with a key financial backer joking about Bayer aspirin being used as contraceptive back in his day (just put it between your thighs and squeeze, ladies). Santorum is a devout Roman Catholic. I have no beef with faith — I have some myself — but Santorum has made no secret that he wants to cut back on contraceptive use as well as abortion services, among other quaint, old controlling notions.
For women, the right to control our bodies means we have choices. When we lose the right to control ourselves, we lose just about everything — our ability to demand respect, for one, because men are dictating to us instead of respecting our autonomy.
A person like Rollback Rick doesn't want gender diversity but rather gender roles. No matter that women are more likely to complete their bachelor's degrees than men. No matter than even among Catholic women, 98 percent use contraception.
When times are rough, it's easy to look back on the days of yesterday with a certain fondness. For some, looking back reflects a time when life was just simpler and frankly a lot less diverse. There were no pesky women (nor people of color) getting in the way of the jobs and opportunities that should be the birthright of white men.
Shay Stewart-Bouley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.